Desktop Publishing: Adobe InDesign vs. PagePlus X5

Folks who work with desktop publishing, page layout and printing:

I am contemplating starting a small business that will require the use of one of the desktop publishing programs for layout and construction of printed material. I’ve done quite a bit of research about the various DTP software packages available, and it seems that Adobe’s InDesign is the current “gold standard” for this.
I’m sure it’s a worthy package, but the price is very high, I’ve read that the learning curve is very steep, and it looks as if there are quite a few features that I just don’t need.

Serif’s PagePlus X5 seems to have a decent reputation, the price is far more reasonable at $99 bucks, and it seems to be easier to learn and use.

I am not trained in desktop publishing, and what I want to do is fairly simple.

Does anyone use PagePlus X5 and also have experience with InDesign? Opinions? Thoughts?


You are right that InDesign is The industry standard.

It’s not just important that it’s better, but that it means everyone in the design and print industry uses it. You will be amazed how often files are sent back and fourth between companies (designers to printers, designers to other designers, clients to designers and on and on). It is always a major pain when some random link in the chain uses a bizarro package (and version) that no one else does - and more for them than anyone else.

If you’re producing brochures, it means you’ll be dealing with printers a lot. And printers like to use any excuse they can to blame you for some problem with a file. I really wouldn’t give them extra amo by using a package they don’t use and don’t understand.

It’s an investment. You should swallow the cost, or you will regret it in the long run.

I should have added - one of the great things about InDesign is that, as part of the Adobe Creative Suite, it works seamlessly with Photoshop and Illustrator. It’s one of the reasons it bumped Quark Express off the top DTP spot. You may think your needs are small at the moment, but as you get more involved in producing print, I can virtually guarantee that you will want the ability to manipulate images, create charts, draw icons etc. I think it would be a false economy to invest in something which may create bugbears when working alongside these other packages in the future.

Understood, and thanks for your advice. I think that all or most of my work would be submitted as a PDF/X document, so I doubt if I’ll be sending any files that are specific to one package or another.

I do have Photoshop CS3, and I did consider that InDesign would complement that very well, but I don’t expect that I’ll be using Photoshop much or at all for this.

Cost is definitely a factor, and I just don’t want to pay for features that I will never use. The learning curve is important too - not necessarily for me, but for my wife who is not as savvy about complex new programs.

I agree with SanVito. I use InDesign professionally, and all the other designers and printers I work with do also. Being on the same page with my printer is essential.

About the learning curve, I don’t think it was hard to pick up at all. InDesign was by far the easiest of all the Adobe products to learn for me. If you get a book like Indesign One on One or such, it shouldn’t be a problem. Especially if you already have experience with Photoshop, a lot of Adobe’s interfaces are similar.

That said, it is expensive. Honestly, if you don’t want to shell out that much and the printed part is a small side of your business, buying the cheaper program might work for you - and if you need to upgrade or need capabilities that PagePlus doesn’t offer, it’s just a hundred bucks lost, right? But if your business is actually print oriented, I would advise you do go for the Adobe product; It wouldn’t really make sense not to do so.

Hard to argue Adobe is the leader, but i have been using Serif products for about 7 years professionally, and i have yet to be stuck and not able to transfer a file in an acceptible format. I can work on adobe and they can work on mine. But the security in the ability to save in the native format and they can’t open it is fantastic. Serif PagePlus 5 is 85-90% of the performance, 300% easier to get to the print shop, and 500% easier to use. Just so you know.

I would never use a designer who used proprietary software as a ransom tool. I’m paying for a service - they don’t own the files in any way. If I found out that they were trying to hold my files for ransom by using layout software that nobody else uses, I would make sure that no one I knew ever gave them any business in the future.

I am sorry that you mis-understood the value of the security. Not security from my customer, but instead … security from hands outside the customer-designer relationship. I also provide a copy of the root software on a separate resource disk given to my customer. Now that gives me security that the print provider does not augment my work without the customer providing the software (knowingly) and also is presented to the customer as a sucurity within thier own entity so that data is not mis used inside that entity. Every customer to-date has found it an invaluable element as an attempt to protect them and thier best interest.

Hate to break it to you (although the law may be different where you are, if it is, I apologise), but the designer most certainly does own the file. What the client is paying for is the specified output (e.g. 2000 copies of X brochure). They aren’t buying the intellectual property rights to the work or, as a by product, the artwork itself. Designers are perfectly within their rights to refuse to pass digital artwork files onto the client, and it used to be common practice to do just that, before we all got scared of the recession and therefore saying ‘no’ to clients.

You may be able to bully a designer into surrendering their IP by handing your their artwork, but it doesn’t make it right, morally or legally. It’s a bit like (back in the day) expecting photographers to give you all their negatives. Wouldn’t happen.

Don’t give into the hype and get sucked in to pending $$$ on Indesign if you can’t afford it!!
PagePlus5 and M.Publisher 2010 will do a very good job as long as you print to PDF/x, and fine tune the print settings, make sure all colors are CMYK and adhere to a few basic print commands. (BTW: You would have to do the same with Adobe products also!!)
All these programs are capable of doing a bad print job file if the file is not properly set up from the start. Basically all images and text need to be set-up for the output intended.

  • Print to PDF/x, then ‘preflight’ the file using Acrobat (if you have Acrobat) to make sure there is no potential print problems. That is all you need to do. Work with your print house and ask them questions. Nowadays, most print houses can fix problems easily through their rip. Have fun and print!

I use both PagePlus & Adobe products. For big jobs like a 500 page catalog and magazines I use Indesign, for small things like brochures, news letters, post cards and such I use PagePlus. PagePlus is more user friendly, they have great tutorials and great hint lines and it comes pre-installed with lots of templates, therefor lets me be more creative. Indesign is very powerful that it has lots of great features it makes creating big jobs easier and faster to complete but these features are useless if you can’t find them, the learning curve is steep. Here in California printers just want the approved final design in PDF form, if they ask for the original file and they make changes, they will bill you for something that you are able to change and do yourself. The bottom line for me is that I find myself using PagePlus for 75-85% of my projects. Adobe products are for big projects and is the industry standard but Serif is right behind and getting closer.